Click on the asthma medication below to learn more about it.
If your medication isn’t listed in the table, it might be that it’s not commonly prescribed for asthma. Call or email the 1800 ASTHMA Helpline to get more information on the less common medicines or you can also ask your doctor to explain more about your medicine.
|| Flixotide accuhaler
|| Pulmicort Turbuhaler
Combination preventer medications
| Fluticasone + Salmeterol Cipla
| Seretide puffer
| Symbicort turbuhaler
Other preventer medications
| Montelukast tablet
|| Singulair tablet
|| Tilade puffer
|| Bricanyl turbuhaler
| Ventolin puffer
| Spiriva Respimat
||Panafcort, Panafcortelone, Solone
Severe asthma treatments
This medicine is a ‘preventer’. Preventer medicines make the airways less sensitive, reduce redness and swelling and help to dry up mucus. Preventers need to be taken every day to reduce symptoms and asthma attacks, and it may take a few weeks before they reach their full effect.
Guidelines suggest that your doctor prescribe a preventer medicine for you if:
- you have had asthma symptoms more than once in the last month,
- you have woken because of symptoms in the last month, or
- you have had a flare up in the last year
In children, preventers are usually prescribed only for those with more frequent symptoms and episodes of asthma.
Alvesco, Flixotide, Pulmicort, Qvar
These inhalers all contain medicine called an inhaled corticosteroid, which are the most common preventers. They can help airway cells repair and return to normal by reducing airway inflammation, sensitivity and reducing excess mucus.
Possible side effects include a sore throat, hoarse voice and/or oral thrush.
These may be reduced by using a spacer if your preventer is in a puffer, and gargling, rinsing your mouth and spitting after each dose.
Breo, Flutiform, Fluticasone + Salmeterol Cipla*, Seretide, Symbicort
These inhalers all contain two medicines within the one inhaler, an inhaled corticosteroid and a long-acting reliever. Combination preventers reduce inflammation, sensitivity and excess mucus, as well as relax tight airway muscles.
Possible side effects include a sore throat, hoarse voice and/or oral thrush.
These may be reduced by using a spacer if your combination preventer is in a puffer, and gargling, rinsing your mouth and spitting after each dose.
* Fluticasone + Salmeterol Cipla is a generic of Seretide. If you are prescribed a Seretide puffer (125/25mcg or 250/25mcg) your pharmacist may ask if you would like the generic version. A generic medicine is an additional brand of an existing medicine. It contains the same active ingredient as the original medicine. It is important to speak with your doctor and pharmacist about whether a generic version of your medication is appropriate for you based on the dosage and device.
For more information on generic medicines click here.
Montelukast & Singulair
These non-steroid preventer tablets are often used to help exercise-related asthma, and are more commonly used in children. Some brand names: Singulair, Respikast, T Lukast, Lukair, Montair.
Side effects are uncommon, but may include muscle or joint pain, gastrointestinal disturbances, headache and/or mood changes.
Intal & Tilade
These are non-steroid preventer inhalers that work by reducing histamine (which sets off inflammation) in the airways. They are most often used in mild allergic and exercise-related asthma. They are quite powdery and can block the inhaler, so it is very important to wash the plastic casing of the inhaler frequently to make sure you are getting the full dose.
Side effects are rare, but may include headache, throat irritation, nausea, cough. Around 20% of people find Tilade has an unpleasant taste.
Airomir, Asmol, Bricanyl & Ventolin
This medicine is a ‘reliever’. Relievers are fast acting medication that give quick relief of asthma symptoms. They relax the muscle around the outside of the airway to open it up. They start to work within minutes and last for up to 4 hours.
Everyone with asthma should have a reliever medicine so they can use it whenever they have asthma symptoms. But if you find you need to use your reliever more than two days per week (other than before exercise) your asthma may not be well controlled and you should see your doctor.
This type of medicine is also used in asthma first aid. You should carry your reliever medicine at all times in case of asthma symptoms.
Possible side effects include increased heart rate, shaking hands. These side effects generally pass quickly, using a blue/grey reliever puffer with a spacer can help to reduce these side effects. They may occur when you take higher doses of the medicine, such as during an asthma emergency.
This medicine may be an option for people over 18 years who have severe asthma despite regular use of high-dose combination preventer medication.
This treatment belongs to a group of medicines called Long-acting muscarinic antagonist – similar to relievers, they work to relax the muscles around the outside of the airway and keep them relaxed for up to 24 hours. It is a once daily, inhaled medicine and should only be used in addition to a preventer medicine – it does not replace preventer medication. When used as an add-on treatment to preventer it can improve lung function and reduce asthma flare-ups.
Spiriva Respimat does not replace your blue/grey reliever, you should carry your blue/grey reliever medicine at all times in case of asthma symptoms.
Possible side effects include dry mouth, sore mouth, gums, or throat; swollen, red, sore tongue, oral thrush, hoarse voice, nose bleeds, cough, dry skin, skin infection or skin ulcer, dizziness.
For video demonstrations of how to use Spiriva Respimat click here.
These medications are used for treating a sudden or severe asthma flare-up or attack. It is a corticosteroid tablet or liquid that is taken for a short time (usually 3-5 days in children; 5-7 days in adults) to reduce the inflammation in the airways.
Side effects ongoing side effects are unlikely if you are only have short, occasional courses of this medication. Longer term or very frequent use can lead to side effects, and you should talk with your doctor about these.
Xolair and Nucala
These treatments come in the form of an injectable medication (e.g. omalizumab also known as Xolair or mepolizumab also known as Nucala) that can help some people with difficult-to-treat or severe asthma.
These treatments are approved in Australia, for some adults and children with moderate-to-severe allergic asthma that is not controlled by maximal preventer therapy (some are subsidized on the PBS if certain strict criteria are met).
Severe asthma treatments are prescribed by a respiratory physician or other specialist in the field and given every 2-4 weeks.
This treatment is a type of preventer medication – it works to reduce inflammation (swelling and sensitivity) in the airways by targeting certain immune and inflammatory proteins, reducing asthma symptoms and flare ups.
People with moderate-to-severe allergic asthma and high levels of IgE (antibodies that are produced by the body in an allergic reaction) may resond to treatment with omalizumab (Xolair). Others with severe eosinophilic asthma may be improved by the use of mepolizumab (Nucala). Eosinophilic asthma involves an inflammation of the airways linked to a type of white blood cell (eosinophils).
Side effects include bruising, redness or pain at the injection site, mild skin rash, headache, tiredness, hair loss, joint pain, joint swelling, muscle pain.
Up to 2 in every 1,000 people may have a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to this treatment, so patients are usually asked to stay in the hospital clinic for an hour or more after the injection.